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City officials soften tone on pre-K funding, Success standoff

It was a big morning for education policy in New York, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio each took to the airwaves, Eva Moskowitz rebuffed the city’s concessions, and a top de Blasio advisor signaled a change in tone on the city’s pre-kindergarten push.

Here’s how the two big stories in the city right now — about charter school co-locations and how to fund a pre-K expansion — developed before noon today.

Prospects for a pre-K tax dim

De Blasio’s flagship policy proposal is to increase taxes on the city’s highest earners to pay for universal pre-K. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo opposes the tax plan and instead proposed allocating more funding to pre-K statewide, but not expanding access as quickly.

For months, De Blasio has declined to entertain the idea that his proposal would not prevail. That changed this morning, during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” talk show. There, the mayor said he would accept Cuomo’s funding strategy as long as he had proof that the city would get the money for all five years that a tax would be in effect.

“We haven’t seen [Cuomo’s] final plan yet,” de Blasio said, adding, “I’ve 100 percent said, ‘If we have a verifiable plan for five years and the dollar figures we need, we can accept that.'”

De Blasio’s top deputy, Anthony Shorris, was even more direct at a breakfast this morning hosted by Crain’s New York Business.

“We need a stable funding stream that is not going to be one year at a time, that is going to be as close as we can get to permanent or long-term. So we proposed a tax as the best way to do that,” Shorris told reporters. “But the principles have always been the same: significant, stable, predictable funding so we can make sure that we can deliver the pre-K and after-school programs that we need.”

The shift in tone comes as even some of de Blasio’s closest allies are conceding the challenge of getting a tax increase through Albany during a packed legislative session and over Cuomo’s objections.

“When you are a former legislator you see, you read the tea leaves,” said city Comptroller Scott Stringer, who has up to now supported de Blasio’s proposal, according to the New York Daily News. “And the leaves don’t point today in the direction of a tax.”

Cuomo sweetened the deal during an appearance on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, saying that he would fund the city’s expansion plan at any cost. “Forget the numbers. … We will fund the need” Cuomo said. “As quickly as cities bring [universal pre-K] online, we will fund it.”

Moskowitz spurns de Blasio’s space concessions

De Blasio was grilled during his “Morning Joe” appearance about his decision to roll back three charter school space-sharing plans approved under the Bloomberg administration.

He defended the changes — which have earned him sharp criticism for nearly two weeks — but also signaled that he would find space for all three Success Academy charter schools whose space plans he had reversed.

Previously, Chancellor Carmen Fariña had said she would try to find space for 194 students who attend a Success school whose expansion plan was curtailed, but she had not indicated any plans to site two new Success schools that have not yet accepted any students.

Just hours later, at an event to announce litigation against de Blasio’s decision to block three schools from opening or expanding in public space, Success CEO Eva Moskowitz said she was happy about the city’s about-face. But she also said she would not accept alternate locations for her three schools, according to WNYC’s Beth Fertig.